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Don’t waste pharmacy’s potential

The pharmacy cuts could hit the UK’s ability to meet the WHO’s ‘unambitious’ mortality goals, according to a new report from the Richmond Group of Charities. Report by Mark Greener.

In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) agreed to reduce preventable mortality from four common chronic conditions by 25 per cent between 2010 and 2025. The UK seems to be well on track to meet these “unambitious” targets – but a new report from the Richmond Group of Charities warns that attaining the targets is “not guaranteed”.

The WHO focused on four preventable diseases: diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease and cardiovascular disease. The report from the Richmond Group (a collaboration of 12 leading health and social care voluntary organisations) predicts that, if current trends continue, early deaths should decline by 25 per cent in women and 22 per cent in men.

Achieving the goal by 2025 would delay or avert 89,000 deaths in women and 161,000 deaths in men and could prevent around 1.12m ‘Years Lived with Disability’. Put another way: 490,000 women and 630,000 men would have one extra year of healthy, disability-free life.

Not guaranteed

“These outcomes are not guaranteed and will require sustained effort on public health initiatives from policy makers,” the Richmond group warns. Indeed, the report points out that the UK will “only just” meet the targets for women and miss them for men. Yet the report identifies clear opportunities to reduce mortality.

“In recent years we have seen great improvements in cardio-vascular disease, cancer and other chronic disease rates, thanks both to improvements in treatment and healthier lifestyle choices such as fewer people smoking,” remarked the report’s lead author Peter Scarborough, from the British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention at Oxford University.

“However, we have also seen worrying increases in obesity levels and type 2 diabetes, and there is much more that we could achieve to improve population diets and physical activity levels.

“This report shows how maintaining a strong focus on public health – which has led to important breakthroughs like salt reduction in processed foods, banning smoking in public places and the introduction of front-of-pack food labelling over the last 15 years – will result in us nearly achieving the WHO targets for premature mortality by 2025.” But to achieve the targets, we need to be even bolder and increase our efforts to improve public health and make healthy choices easy choices, he says.

Avoidable

“The findings of this important Richmond Group report reflect a growing recognition of the need to focus on prevention and public health as we look to reduce the cost and impact of avoidable long-term conditions,” remarks Elizabeth Wade, director of policy at Pharmacy Voice.

“Community pharmacies are ideally placed to help achieve the WHO’s ‘25 by 25’ goals in the UK, and already deliver a wide range of public health services including smoking cessation, blood pressure screening, alcohol brief interventions, weight management and behavioural change advice. However, the huge potential of the community pharmacy network to help reduce preventable health conditions is currently at risk,” Ms Wade told Pharmacy Magazine.

“Community pharmacy is poised to make an even bigger difference to the public’s health through an expansion of the preventative and public health services we offer. What is needed now are the resources and the will from Government to realise that potential.”

What is needed are the resources and will from Government to realise that potential

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